Researchers study bed, walking sensors to help prevent falls among the elderly

Sensors tracking walking rate and sleep patterns can help prevent falls and other potential risky health issues among the elderly, according to two new University of Missouri studies.

"In-home sensors have the ability to capture early signs of health changes before older adults recognize problems themselves," Marjorie Skubic, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering and director of MU's Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology, states in a University of Missouri announcement. "The radar enhances our ability to monitor walking speed and determine if a senior has a fall risk; the bed sensors provide data on heart rate, respiration rate, and overall cardiac activity when a senior is sleeping."

The MU researchers used radar sensors to monitor the walking speed of seniors for two years. They also used bed sensors to track cardiac activity and respiration rate.

"Before using radar, we were able to estimate an individual's walking speed and have an idea of their health status," Dominic Ho, co-author and professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering, says in the announcement. "Now, we have data that definitely shows how declines in walking speed can determine the risk for falls."

Sensor technology is increasingly being used for such healthcare efforts. As FierceMobileHealthcare recently reported, University of California, San Diego researchers developed what they call the first multimodal wearable, the Chem-Phys sensor patch, which monitors electrophysiology and body chemical sensing simultaneously. Consumer interest in such tools is increasing, as well, due to fitness interest.

The MU researchers now are investigating other sensors that may help with early detection of health issues.

For more information:
- read the University of Missouri announcement